n job search, as in many aspects of life, we don’t reach our goal—or it takes longer than planned to get there—because we are sending the wrong message to our audience—or because we are sending our message to the wrong audience.
Here are four marketing concepts to think about, as described by Dr. Mike Yao in an online marketing class, in addition to those we discussed in another recent post, as we prepare our job search communications:
- Who are you?
- To whom do you want to communicate?
- What do you want to say and how do you want to say it?
- What do you want to achieve?
Dr. Yao calls these the most fundamental aspects of any strategic communications plan. Job search messaging is, perhaps, the most important personal business strategic communications we do during our career.
Job search is the process of marketing our knowledge, skills, and abilities to prospective employers. In other words, we will do better when we get our marketing basics correct. According to Dr. Yao, even big companies get the basics wrong on occasion, so it’s understandable when job seekers with no marketing expertise get it wrong.
Who are you?
It sounds simple to answer the question “who are you,” but it turns out to be fairly difficult sometimes. And we have to respond to this question at several steps in our job search.
For job search purposes, “who are you” is “What is your personal brand?” We discuss this in our resume brand statements and summaries, the headline and “About” sections of our LinkedIn profiles, and yet again when we respond to the “tell me about yourself” question at job interviews. So, it is crucial to do a self-assessment that will help you respond to “who are you?”
Large businesses get their self-assessments wrong, according to Dr. Yao. Uber, for example, initially thought of itself as marketing a technology platform—the Uber app—to drivers and riders. Drivers, riders, and municipalities saw it differently, though. They saw the company as more like a taxi service, among other things. The full implications of this are beyond the scope of this post. Suffice to say, the Company ran into many regulatory and labor issues because it did not view itself as a car service employing drivers to serve riders.
Think about the service you deliver or want to deliver for an employer. Assess whether you have the ability to deliver the service, so you know you are pursuing the correct opportunities.
To whom do you want to communicate?
Once again, the answer for “to whom do we want to communicate” seems simple. It’s not.
Marketers think in terms of defining their audience. There can be different audiences at different stages in the sales process, just as there are different audiences for different aspects of our job search.
An early stage in the marketing process, sometimes called the “sales funnel,” is awareness. Marketers want consumers to be aware of their product or service. Consumer product companies traditionally have done this via mass marketing through television and other advertising.
Job seekers don’t do mass market advertising, but they do want to make a broad range of potential “buyers,” and those that influence “purchasing,” or hiring decisions aware of them, and the service they offer.
The new digital world does allow job seekers to do mass marketing of sorts. I realized this a few years ago when a client read the LinkedIn “About” section I recommended for her, and said “this reads like an advertisement for me!”
LinkedIn is, in a sense, a form of advertising for job seekers. We post a profile that allows perhaps thousands (and potentially millions) of LinkedIn members to become aware of us.
A later stage of the marketing process is creating interest in the product or service. That’s where our networking efforts come in. We contact everyone that may be in a position to influence a hiring manager.
Last but not least, we want to personalize our communications to prospective employers, or our “buyers.” Digital media makes it relatively easy for marketers to personalize their message to consumers. Think about the number of seemingly personal messages from advertisers we see in our social media feeds and elsewhere.
Our LinkedIn profile can serve as an advertisement for our services while our resumes and job search letters serve as personalized communications to specific, targeted, audiences. The days when a generic resume and cover letter could be effective are long gone because, as we discussed in a previous post, most of us have the resources to personalize our message to each industry contact and prospective employer.
What do you want to say and how do you want to say it?
An additional element of marketing is deciding what our message is and how we want to communicate that message. This is another area where I found job seekers make errors. Countless job seekers I’ve spoken with have told me they want to say “I need a job—any job.” Some wrote resume objective statements such as “a rewarding job in a growing organization.” That’s the wrong message in my view.
Instead, like companies offering a product or service, we want to communicate the benefits of hiring us. An accounts payable manager I recently worked with is promoting the benefits of hiring her to reduce costs through personal business relationships with vendors, and careful tracking to ensure the company can take prompt payment discounts. My client does need a job so she can provide for her family, but the message we are communicating is that she will save money for the company that hires her. The way we are communicating this message, in part, is through accomplishment statements in her resume and LinkedIn profile.
What do you want to achieve?
Again, it seems obvious that “what we want to achieve” is to get a job. That’s not always the goal of our communications. For example, the initial goal of your LinkedIn profile may be to create awareness of your expertise among others in your industry. LinkedIn has powerful tools, such as the ability to post endorsements, recommendations, and links to multimedia publications and host video presentations. This is something you can start doing right now, before you need to job search!
Later in our career marketing process, we will probably want to achieve something else. Chances are we want to market our services at a higher salary—a higher price point in marketing terms. Or, we may want to achieve a position that makes use of specific skills or expertise. Our marketing goal, then, is to achieve hiring into a specific job at a specific salary range.
As one recruiter likes to put it, we are not doing a job search. We are creating a career marketing campaign.